Israel: Questions and Answers

Arie Sommer discusses travel to Israel with Reed Travel Features' Israel editor, Shuly Kustanowitz.

TW: What should visitors be sure to see during Israel's 50th birthday year?

Sommer: They should see all the sites that have made Israel such a legendary travel destination for 4,000 years.

But I'd also recommend they see Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, where David Ben Gurion declared Israel's independence in 1948. The hall has been restored to what it was 50 years ago. There's a fascinating video presentation and guides talk tourists through the actual event. It's very moving.

TW: What changes should visitors be sure to note?

Sommer: Visitors who haven't been here in the last 10 years will hardly recognize the place, the changes have been so dramatic.

Many people arrive expecting to find the Third World and are surprised to discover a thoroughly Western, sophisticated, high-tech country.

Drive down to Beersheba. Where at one time there was just sand and dunes, there are wheat fields. See the Tayelet pedestrian walkway along the beach in Tel Aviv, where streams of Israelis and tourists listen to outdoor entertainers and fill dozens of restaurants and cafes.

In Jerusalem, see the panorama of the city from gardens and walks at the Sherover Promenade.

TW: What is the significance of the growth of international and domestic hotel chains in Israel?

Sommer: Ever since Sheraton opened its first hotel in Tel Aviv in 1961, international chains have been steadily opening in Israel, underscoring their own and their investors' faith in Israel's tourism industry. And wow, have those investments paid off!

And then, of course, there are the excellent Israeli chains, too, like Dan Hotels, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; Isrotel, and, of course, the Kibbutz Hotels, which are unlike any other hotels in Israel or the rest of the world.

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